INTERVIEWS

Chief design officer, Philips Lighting

Joining Philips is an amazing opportunity

It started over a coffee in Moscow. I was setting up an Arup office in Russia and I met Rudy and then later at some point he asked me to consider joining Philips. I started to think about it and I realised that such an opportunity – to be at the helm of design at such a large company – is given only once.

The fact that Philips has decided to appoint a chief designer was for me enough to believe in it

When you start something like this, you need a lot of support from the organisation and its leadership. Otherwise you just can’t do it because it is so big. What I felt from the very beginning was an incredible drive to make it successful.

My appointment is a bigger change for Philips than it is for me

Philips always had a very great sense for design and has always been very inspired by design, but for the past 15 to 20 years, design has been an independent element in Philips and not really a part of it. What we want with the company is to really integrate design into the business.

My interest is in how design can deliver the brief
In my work as a lighting designer I was most renowned for projects regarded as iconic. When I did the lighting design for a shopping mall, I wanted to increase the footfall. When I did the lighting design for a museum, I wanted to tell a story. I guess that was why Philips asked me to join them because they wanted to put design in the heart of innovation.

Jonathan Ive of Apple is a true advocate of design

It’s flattering to be compared to Jonathan Ive. He is a true advocate of the relevance of design. And I am in a very similar mission because Philips is a technology-driven company.

Philips is a different company from Apple

Apple is often used as a case study of how you can create meaning out of technology in the everyday life of people. For instance, the iPod is not just a music player, it’s a symbol of freedom. But we are a very different company: we contribute directly to the health of the people with our lighting systems, we make spaces stimulating. What we do should contribute to everyday life otherwise why are we doing it?

I can’t impose one Philips methodology on all our designers

In North America alone there are almost 50 companies that have become members of the Philips lighting family, and they all have their own design processes. I am not somebody who superimposes one methodology and then tells everybody to do it.

I want to bring people together in a Philips design community, make it a fantastic place to work and celebrate our big successes with everybody.

I want to make the concept of ‘open innovation’ a reality

This is where our product lines are designed in close collaboration with the specifiers in the market, with academia, with the scientists, with behavioural psychologists. I really want to start with the user, say for example a lighting designer. He or she knows what they require to make their dream come true but the product doesn’t seem to be available. Why not tune into Philips, talk about it to a team of specialists in design, in technology, in ergonomics and make it all happen?

There’s more we can do with sustainability

Dow Jones published a list of sustainable companies and we were in our sector leader. But at the same time there is an awful lot still to be done. I want to do much more ‘cradle to cradle’ integration, where everything comes back in the cycle and is used again.

I am still amazed, every day

Philips is really unparalleled. I can walk into any lab anywhere and I am still amazed. For instance we are launching a series of retail fixtures that are so innovative in just the way they control the light and in what they look like and in everything.

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